Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Benedictine Mass.

And so the great mass is over. Some 400,000 are claimed to have gathered for the spectacular service. No doubt the usual bullshit will be carried on by those so disposed arguing the toss and claiming no one has counted properly, the figures are exaggerated and “you couldn’t possibly fit that many, etc. Matters diddly-squat: the numbers in the “Southern Cross precinct” (Centennial Park/Randwick) will have easily surpassed that reasonable figure.

It would appear that all who attended seemed well pleased with the mass: smiles, tears and not a little religious fervour. Not surprising given the faultless service attended by a frocked army of ecclesiastical invasion led by Benedict XVI, the as yet to be Great. The centre point of the mass, the sacrament of the Eucharist, went off without any great hassle – amazing given the numbers.

This was, to me, one of the more interesting aspects. The news had been that Benedict would require receivers to both kneel and accept the host on the tongue – a throwback to times well past. Others, receiving from priests amongst the crown, would not be required to kneel in this fashion. And so it happened. It is difficult to remember the last time I received communion in this fashion – probably at my first back in the mid sixties.

This, of course, tallies with Benedict’s intimation in his homily that the Church needs to reinvigorate its traditions. Apparently not kneeling for communion is an act of irreverence:

The Holy Father has requested that those whom he gives communion to will kneel,and his preference is that they receive communion on the tongue," said Father Mark Podesta, an official World Youth Day spokesman. However, these preferences will not apply to the crowds at the racecourse, who could be pressed for
kneeling space.

Well, as they would, as they would. It’s hard to escape the notion that this practice will have applied to the crowds only for the lack of space to supervene. It is though an indicator of where Benedict is going:
"His request is not a mandate for the church, it's merely an indicator," FatherPodesta said. "He is concerned with the question of reverence. (Standing andreceiving the host in the hand) could be open to irreverence. It's a reminder for those who watch it that this is very special."

Tied to the notion of the respect for and re-invigoration of the beautiful liturgical tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, Benedict would like to see greater use of the Latin or Tridentine mass. The rationale given is that little Latin has been used post Vatican II after Priests were allowed to conduct the mass in “the vernacular”. The Priest giving “expert commentary” on the televised service intoned that this was a good way to go because Latin was the “the language of the Church”. By adoption, yes it is. It is also the language of such pagans as Titus Livius, Gaius Julius Caesar and Cicero: in short the language of empire; the language of power. Much as French was after the Norman invasion of Britain.

The Church had little choice in “its” language. It took root in a Roman world and therefore adopted, as time went by, its language. Much (written) in the east was still in Attic koine, the widespread Greek of commerce throughout the eastern Greek world of the Seleucids and Ptolemies. As the Roman west corroded and crumbled into history, the Catholic Church adopted its capital and, inter alia, its language.

It is somewhat difficult to find examples in the primary sources (the Gospels) of Christ conducting his business in Latin. It will likely have been in koine if not Hebrew. Further, there seems no evidence of the apostles kneeling in respect to eat at the last supper which we Catholics now “do in memory” of him in the mass. There is evidence in the source material of the “Holy Spirit” allowing the apostles to be heard by those they addressed in “their own tongues”. Sounds a good basis for priests delivering the mass in “the vernacular” to me.

Latin is a largely forgotten language and exists as a language of history in much the same way as archaic Greek in the classical corpus. It certainly is not a language in wide use in Australia but, according to Inside the Vatican magazine, we need to be brought into line:
Australia is a country well known for lax liturgical practices following in the wake of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and this was particularly evident during liturgies celebrated by John Paul II on visits there in 1986 and 1995.

Seems I’d best brush up on my Latin – all one year of it thirty-eight years ago.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know the 'Sacrament of the Eucharist' was the 'centre of the Mass' I thought it was the consecration. I didn't know the Catholic Church adopted Rome as its centre in the fourth century when the Empire crumbled, I thought it was with St Peter in the first century. I thought Jesus had quite a long conversation with Pontius Pilate in Latin (see St John's gospel). What other language would they have spoken? I suppose one or the other of us must have been misinformed.

23/7/08 7:56 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

I didn't know the 'Sacrament of the Eucharist' was the 'centre of the Mass' I thought it was the consecration.

Why don't we simply discuss Transubstantiation gutless?

The partaking of the sacrament of the Eucharist is the point of the mass.

As to Rome and the Catholic Church, power is all. You need also to read what is written: where did I ever mention the fourth century?

As Jesus, capable of any language, might have said: it is you, gutless, who writes it.

24/7/08 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

What other language would they have spoken?

Oh dear, um... Aramaic? Greek? Lot's of languages in that little melting pot, way back then...

I didn't know the 'Sacrament of the Eucharist' was the 'centre of the Mass'...

Oh gosh, I'd imagine several hundred thousand pilgrims might have found receiving Holy Communion from the very Pontiff to be "the centre point of the mass". Perhaps a once in a lifetime thing, eh?

Genuflect, genuflect, genuflect...

24/7/08 1:27 AM  

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